Luke Toki's with baby daughter Madeline, who spent three weeks in NICU after she was born in March.
Luke Toki's with baby daughter Madeline, who spent three weeks in NICU after she was born in March.

Survivor star’s very different home life

HE IS the loveable larrikin who's become a standout star of Australian Survivor, but back home in Perth, Luke Toki is a super dad.

Toki and his wife Mary have three children. Of his two boys - Lennox, 7, and Nate, 5 - one has autism and the other is on the autism spectrum with a global development delay. And now baby Madeline, who the couple welcomed four months ago, was recently diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.

Madeline was just six weeks old when Toki left the family to film Australian Survivor, the second time he has appeared on the show, to try and win the $500,000 prize money.

For Toki, possibly more than many on the show considering his home situation, the money would come in very handy.

The Toki family home life is full of joy, despite the challenges of raising their young family. They wouldn't have it any other way.

"I wouldn't swap my kids for any kids," Toki told news.com.au.

"Disability or no disability, they are absolutely great to be around. I love my kids. I'm very lucky to have such nice kids."

Toki is one of the best-loved contestants on Australian Survivor.
Toki is one of the best-loved contestants on Australian Survivor.

Toki says the boys have their father's cheeky personality already.

"I think what makes it easy is that their attitudes are kind of like mine," he said.

"They're just carefree, they're good kids. I actually feel like you can have a kid who isn't autistic but has behavioural issues that would cause more drama than the kids that I have."

 

 

Luke Toki with wife Mary, and sons Lennox and Nate.
Luke Toki with wife Mary, and sons Lennox and Nate.

As for little baby Madeline, Toki said it was super tough to leave for Survivor when she was just six weeks old.

As well as being diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, she was born with an intestinal atresia, which is a blockage of the intestine.

"It was difficult to leave, it was actually really hard," he said.

"I have an amazing wife who was able to handle it, and I wouldn't have left if I didn't think she could.

"She took the helm like a champion and made sure that I was able to do it."

Once we got on the plane to head to Fiji it was all business - but of course he did pine for home.

"You are leaving to go on an adventure but to also potentially help your family," he said.

"Then after a week it hits. That's when you start thinking, I wonder what's going on at home?"

 

 

 

Since returning from Fiji, Toki has been in hospital with little Madeline and his wife as they learn steps to make life easier for their little girl.

"We've just been at the hospital the last two days with her," he said.

"We're learning all the physio side of things and the finer details of the situation. She's really good at the moment."

Toki hasn't returned to his office job at a transport company in Perth, instead taking time after Fiji to spend time with his family.

"It was a good reason to come back, being able to come back to a nice healthy baby girl with a nice healthy smile, and just having time to relax and not work or anything," he said.

"To be able to spend some quality time with her."

The lure of the $500,000 was enough for Toki to sign on for a second season of Australian Survivor, his first being back in 2017.

"It was 95 per cent the reason," he said of going back on the show.

"It's a way to set up your family. Tell me, when was the last time you had a one in 24 chance to win $500,000? These opportunities don't come up that often.

"$500,000 will change a lot of things at home. I can buy my Ferrari, I can buy a big gold necklace and give the change to the kids," he joked.

Luke made it to the Top 8 before his torch was snuffed back in 2017. Picture: Supplied.
Luke made it to the Top 8 before his torch was snuffed back in 2017. Picture: Supplied.

On the Champions tribe alongside the likes of former Brisbane Lions footy player Simon Black, rugby league legend Andrew Ettingshausen, former Senator and Olympic gold medallist Nova Peris, and Winter Olympic gold medallist Steven Bradbury, Toki has already cemented himself as a strong player one week in.

Being a returning player didn't make things any easier.

"You could say I was a bit more experienced or ready for it, but I don't think that really translates as the experience being easier," he said.

"I suppose I know how to crack a coconut and the basic of it, the survival side of things. But when it comes to the actual game side, it's a whole new kettle of fish.

"All new people and all new twists and turns."

 

 

His experience this time around was completely different.

"It was a different environment," he said.

"I would say the first day for me was totally different to the first time around because of the personalities on the tribe."

While some of the athletes and other members of the Australian Survivor cast spend weeks training and dieting, Toki has an unorthodox preparation method to appearing on the gruelling show.

"Everyone trains, they get fit and healthy and try to ween off coffee and sugar, and I was the opposite," he said.

"I was like, this could be my last meal for a while, so my comedown from not having all those things was on the island."

 

 

In 2017 he finished seventh on the show, however unlike some previous Survivor contestants, he settled back into normal life relatively easy.

"Thankfully I handled it pretty well," he said.

"I've got a good base to come back to. My happy place is at home with the kids and my wife. They were waiting for me when I got out the first time and obviously, they were again when it happened the second time."

He still stays in touch with his cast mates from 2017, including his best friend, the eventual winner that year - Jericho Malabonga.

Some of the cast flew to Perth last week to watch the premier of this year with him.

"We all definitely stay in touch," he said.

"I think it's a beautiful thing. Everyone does drift apart and do their own things, but we still stay in touch because we have all been through the same experience."

 

 

 

Back in 2017, he was known for being the loveable larrikin that somehow managed to stab people in the back and still be very well liked - both with the contestants and with fans of the show.

Toki realises the show is a game, and that he is a reality TV producer's dream. He is not going to change the way he does things this time around.

"This season of Survivor is going to be extra special because the king of the jungle is back!" he laughed.

Luke Dennehy is a freelance journalist. Continue the conversation via @LukeDennehy


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